Stefano Mainetti: Nazi musical politics and the influence of the Wagnerian cult

Stefano mainetti
Ed. Musa Comunicazione, Rome 2014
pp. 99

The author, composer and conductor, following the path of "degenerate music" during Nazism, comes to express his assessment of the influence that Richard Wagner would have had on Nazi ideology, especially in relation to Hitler's ferocious anti-Semitism.

"In the post-war German social and political life, music played a prominent role and was, for various reasons, a nodal point of Nazi propaganda." The systematic repression of musical thought began in 1938 with the exhibition "Degenerate Music". By this term they meant "Atonal music, the instinctive expressions of lower races, such as jazz music, the works of Jewish or Slavic composers" which, being the fruit of deviant minds, represented a threat.

With the law of May 1938, relating to the seizure of works that had received the label of "Degenerate Art", many artists decided to emigrate. Maestro Wilhelm Furtwängler, considered one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century, had the Führer among his greatest admirers and therefore managed to remain in his place, guaranteeing the maintenance of the place, among the Berliner Philarmoniker, even for some of his Jewish orchestras .

That of the master Furtwängler was, however, an exception, but "It was also thanks to these exceptions that the Nazi propaganda tried to present itself to foreign observers under a better profile."

The process of "Aryanization" of music, on the other hand, knew no exceptions. Hitler, in fact "He loved music, as long as it was Aryan". And since there were too many Jews among the most celebrated composers and librettists, the Nazis replaced "Entire libretti, changing orchestrations and instrumentation of famous scores." They were censored The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni e Così fan tutte, as works composed on librettos by the Jew Lorenzo Da Ponte. They were revised on Requiem by Mozart and Bach's cantatas, as well as The battle of Legnano by Giuseppe Verdi and the William Tell by Gioacchino Rossini.

Music was also the protagonist in the concentration camps where real orchestras were formed and where, "By exploiting the Nazis' love of music, many professional and non-professional Jewish musicians managed to save their lives."

But it was Wagner's music that Hitler became infatuated with, so much so that “At his behest the attacks of the German planes were accompanied by the Ride of the Valkyries and Rienzi's overture often marked the beginning of ceremonies and congresses. All state funerals were accompanied by the notes of Siegfried's death from the Twilight of the Gods. "

The German people and the regime's leaders, however, liked Italian or French melodrama. It was only Hitler who had a visceral love for Wagner. "Its hierarchs [...] were terrified of having to spend hours and hours motionless following a work by Richard Wagner, and this happened at every congress or official anniversary."

Most of Wagner's heirs approved of Hitler's work, sharing his crazy theories "When he was still an exalted young man, long before he became head of the Third Reich."

But the progenitor, Richard Wagner, who died in 1883, “Can he really be considered Hitler's spiritual father, as he claimed? The answer may be affirmative, but exclusively in the sense that Wagner was exploited a posteriori by Hitler, pro domo sua. "

It was, however, with Winifred, the wife of Wagner's son, that the connivance between Nazism and the Wagner family began: “This is where the connection between Wagner's music and Nazi ideology is born, so it's not Wagner's fault. [...] Limiting the figure of Wagner to what the Nazis thought of him is historically incorrect, and this too is yet another violence that the Nazi regime has committed on culture, not just Germanic. "

“The one conceived by Adolf Hitler was a desk operation, a pure abstraction for the propaganda purpose of electing Wagner to that superman of Nietzschean nature that the dictator needed. By overturning the meaning of the myths of Tetralogy and skillfully manipulating those weaknesses of mankind that the composer had dealt with in his works, Hitler appropriated the beauty, power and universality of Wagner's music, to subjugate the masses and to sell them. a message of his own for which Richard Wagner cannot possibly be held responsible. "

Gianlorenzo Capano